First Sunday After Pentecost
The Holy Trinity
June 11, 2017
"GOD ANSWERS LIFE'S BASIC QUESTIONS"
Pastor Frederick Casmer
People have a natural curiosity about their roots. Where did we come from? Why are we here? We all need to have a feeling of identity and purpose. It drives adopted children to seek out their biological parents. It drives others to trace out their family trees. It drives scientists to explore the mystery of the origins of the universe, usually ignoring the evidence of God.
The book of Genesis means “beginnings.” It relates the beginnings of many important things: the world, the human race, sin, God’s promised deliverance through the Savior, the chosen nation from whom the Messiah would come. In today’s First Lesson, the creation account, “GOD ANSWERS LIFE’S BASIC QUESTIONS” 1. About Himself and 2. About Ourselves.
As it begins Genesis offers no theological argument for God’s existence. God simply and clearly reveals Himself “in the beginning” (v1). But He existed long before this – from eternity! Only a fool would deny He exists!
While God consistently reveals Himself as one (Dt 6:4), the most common Hebrew word for God (Elohim), used 31 times in Genesis 1-2, is plural. Note also “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (v2). The Holy Spirit was active in the divine work of creation. So was the Son according to St. John’s Gospel (1:1-3). Finally, note the plural verb and plural possessive pronouns, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (1:26). This also indicates the Holy Trinity, as Luther says, “The word ‘Let us make’ is aimed at making sure the mystery of our faith, by which we believe that from eternity there is one God and that there are three separate Persons in one Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (LW 1:57).
We believe the mystery of the Holy Trinity, not because we can understand the doctrine, but because God has revealed Himself in this way. We cannot see, fully understand or explain the phenomenon of electricity, gravity or the full function of the human brain, but that doesn’t prevent us from utilizing and benefiting from these blessings of God’s creation.
The Triune God is the Creator of the universe. Moses’ “account of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (Ge 2:4) possesses a rhythmic repetition and progression. Each creation day is described in the same way: “And there was evening, and there was morning” (vv 5,8,13, 19,23,31). “And God said” occurs ten times and shows us the means by which God created: by His almighty Word (He 1:3). The two phrases, “And it was so… And God saw that it was good,” woven throughout the creation account, relate the awe and wonder of God’s creative act. He simply spoke the Word and immediately brought forth that which did not previously exist: “so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (He 11:3b).
At the end of the sixth day, everything that exists was created in its fully finished form (1:31). The modern mind that believes it took eons for our world to evolve from pre-existing matter scoffs at the idea that God created all things in such a short period of time. The famous abolitionist, Henry Ward Beecher (1813- 87) had a beautiful globe depicting the constellations and planets. Robert Ingersoll, the famous agnostic, admired the globe and asked who made it. “Who made it?” said Beecher, seizing the opportunity to attack his guest’s well-known unbelief. “Why, nobody made it. It just happened!”
“WHAT ANSWERS TO LIFE’S BASIC QUESTIONS” about God does the creation account give? Among other things, it tells us our Creator is wise, eternal, almighty, imaginative and loving. But the creation account also gives us some valuable information about mankind. Famous psychologist Carl Jung remarked: “The central neurosis of our time is emptiness.” But in the creation account “GOD ANSWERS LIFE’S BASIC QUESTIONS” about ourselves, filling life’s emptiness with meaning and purpose, especially our relationship with this eternal God who created all things.
Where did we come from? “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27). So what does it mean to be made “in the image of God”? It means that man and woman received what nothing else in all of God’s creation received. Everything God made was “very good” (1:31), but no other creature in heaven or on earth was made in God’s image. Not even the angels. Only mankind. Created in the image of God means, not that we looked like God, but that man and woman were created in holiness (Eph 4: 24; Col 3;10), with perfect knowledge of God, with true fear, confidence and trust in God. Man and woman were the crown of God’s creation. He also gave them unrestricted dominion over the earth and its creatures (1;28).
This gift was lost with the fall into sin (Ge 3). No longer do we fear and love God above all things. No longer do we have any natural knowledge of God as our loving Father. No longer do we have confidence in Him, but we take matters into our own hands, because we think we know better than Him. Sin has broken creation. Sin has broken us. We are different and we look at others differently – with suspicion, fear, envy and hatred. We may be able to hide who we are from each other, but as Adam and Eve quickly discovered in the Garden of Eden (3:8-10), we cannot hide our sins from God.
Yet God’s good purpose is to save His fallen creatures. So He promised the Savior (3:15) even before He pronounced the curses of sin on mankind and the world. The task of recovering what was lost that day fell to one Man, and He determined that each life was worth His own. And so Jesus gave His life for your life. He suffered the shame and nakedness of the cross and rose from the dust of death, so that all who believe in Him might be raised to live with Him not only forever, but already now, again in God’s image. After He had completed His task, He said it need never be done again. It is finished (Jn 19:30). You are whole. You are healed, You are forgiven and re-created.
That brings us to the second “BASIC QUESTION GOD ANSWERS” about ourselves: Why are we here? Luther tells us: “For all this I ought to thank and praise, to serve and obey him” (Small Catechism, First Article). Today’s psalm directed us to “Praise the LORD” (150:1a). We don’t direct our praise to a one-size-fits-all, generic, nameless, impotent god. That name comes from the Hebrew verb “He is.” He is the self-existent, unchanging, eternal God who is always faithful to His gracious promises (Ex 34:5-6). We describe Him as He describes Himself to us. We trust that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. We gladly and freely share our faith in this only true God with others, because only trust in Him will save.
Why are we here? To serve and obey Him! Many people serve and obey the wrong god. Or they may serve and obey the right God, but for the wrong reason – out of guilt, to impress Him or others, to earn points to be saved. But we serve and obey the true God for the right reason – in gratitude for His grace. He created us, preserves us, redeemed us and sanctifies us. We obey Him by following His commands which He has given us for our good.
That’s what today is about. The Holy Trinity in love giving Himself to us, and we in turn giving glory to Him. Not simply here in church, but daily in our lives, living the image He has given us by His grace. Living as Christ in the world. He reveals Himself to you so that His grace may be with you always, to the very end of the age, when time will give way to timeless eternity. AMEN.